Eagles defense faces new challenge from Marino

December 09, 1990|By Dave Caldwell | Dave Caldwell,Knight-Ridder Newspapers

PHILADELPHIA -- Dan Marino may be as mobile as City Hall, but he also is one of the most difficult quarterbacks to capture in his own backfield.

When the Philadelphia Eagles face Marino and the Miami Dolphins today in Miami, they must try to stifle a quarterback who is famous for eluding sacks by getting rid of the ball in a hurry. So the Eagles defenders might be more concerned with batting down some of Marino's passes than getting their hands on him.

"You still work to get the sack it doesn't really change in that aspect but you know he's going to throw the ball away," Eagles defensive tackle Mike Golic said of Marino. "You have to be prepared for that. So you have to get your hands up."

Marino is one of the most challenging quarterbacks the Eagles will play against this year, and not just because he has thrown for 30,322 yards in less than eight seasons to become the 11th most prolific passer in league history.

Through last week's 42-20 loss to the Washington Redskins, Marino had been sacked just nine times this season. By contrast, elusive Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham has been sacked 41 times in 12 games.

A week after the Eagles were scorched by Buffalo's Jim Kelly for 334 yards 229 in a disastrous first quarter Marino will test the Eagles' pass defense in a different way. Blitzing, the Eagles' defensive trademark, may not be as effective this week, so while the Eagles linemen will concentrate more on getting a hand in front of Marino, the linebackers and defensive backs will try to stick closer to the Dolphins receivers, giving Marino less room to drill his passes.

"What you have to do is try to get the linemen to get their hands up," safety Wes Hopkins said.

"... You probably concentrate more on your coverages instead of blitzing, because he's not going to hold the ball long. The ball's not going to be there when you get to him, because if he sees the blitz coming, he's going to get rid of it. He's been doing that all his career, and that's why he hasn't been sacked that many times."

Discipline is not a trait usually associated with the Eagles' defense, but "technique" is this week's defensive catchword.

"That's where we fell apart in the first half last week technique," Eagles defensive coordinator Jeff Fisher said. "The effort was there, but we didn't tackle well.

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